Three weeks to go until our exhibition and I still haven’t finished any of my pieces. Finally succumbing to Covid last week hasn’t helped, putting me out of action for a couple of days, including what should have been a day at college. But here’s an update on the progress of my plaited piece.

I thought originally that the plaited piece would be my biggest challenge, as the emphasis is often on colour and pattern rather than form. But when we worked with triaxial weaving and I managed to make a torus, I thought I could adapt this technique to make a jellyfish.

I figured that where the central tube opens out at the top I could keep weaving more rounds to create the dome of the jellyfish. And instead of bringing the bottom of the tube up and out to join the top, I could continue weaving it as a tube. And to be fancy schmancy I could add an overlay on top of the hexagonal weave.

I made a sample in cane to see how it might work.

This worked quite well. The top even formed a dome shape by itself, which helped. However, I wasn’t really happy with using lapping cane as the material. For a start, it has a shiny side and a matte side, which caused a few problems as the surface on the inside of the tube becomes the top surface of the jellyfish – you can see the difference in texture in the photo above. Also, the cane suggested more mushroom than jellyfish. I needed something that was better at evoking jelly.

The right type of plastic

The plastic strapping tape I’d made the torus with was strong, flexible and had the right body. It would have been ideal if I could get a transparent version. But this seemed to be impossible without ordering several pallets!

So I ordered a sample of thick PVC that strip curtains are made from – that was too soft. A fellow student suggested cutting rigid polythene tubing into strips – I found some in a DIY shop but that also proved to be too soft.

Then our tutor Polly announced that she was having a clear-out of her studio and was selling lots of stuff she no longer wanted. Another of my fellow students found a roll of Mylar, which looked ideal, while I picked up an ancient-looking reel of Rexlace, or plastic string, which I thought I could use for weaving the overlay.

Online I found that Mylar comes in different thicknesses, so I ordered a sample pack to determine which would be best.

The weight I thought would work best for weaving wasn’t totally clear – the thicker the Mylar, the milkier the colour – but at this stage I decided just to go for it.

Although the Mylar was the right thickness and flexibility, it was very shiny and smooth, with no grip at all. This made it a complete pain to work with when joining, as the strips tended to slip. Lots of pegs and patience needed!

After weaving part of the tube I started weaving the dome, but because the Mylar was so slippery the tube started to unravel. In the end I just pegged what was left and continued with the dome.

Once I reached the edges of the dome I started weaving the overlay between the hexagons. This required a fair amount of concentration – and even then quite a lot of reweaving – to ensure that the pattern was consistent in its orientation. I also had to work out how to deal with the pentagonal “corners” where the edge of the dome turned down. When it worked it was very satisfying, but I don’t think I am going to take up chair seating any time soon!

I finished the edge of the dome with a sandwich and sew border, stitched using fishing line, which held surprisingly strongly. I left all the ends hanging down to evoke more tentacles or stingers.

Then it was back to the tube. I had previously done some experiments trying to make a triaxial weave spiral, in various materials.

But I wanted the spiral on the jellyfish to be a bit gentler. The curves of the spiral are created by weaving a pentagon on the outside of the curve and a heptagon on the inside of the curve. The problem I had previously is that, although I was removing one weaver to create the pentagon and adding one weaver to create the heptagon, I still seemed to end up with one fewer hexagon on subsequent rounds. This meant that the tube got narrower as it grew longer.

However, in this case I decided to use it to my advantage, so that the tube tapered towards the end. (Incidentally I also discovered that to prevent the tube getting narrower you weave the heptagon before you weave the pentagon.)

So this is as far as I’ve got. I need to find some way of curling the ends that hang down, which may involve dowelling, a hairdryer, and more patience, unless anyone has some curling tongs or hair straighteners?

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